Got an 8th Grader? Time to Prepare Your Child’s Way to College

By Doug Walker, Principal of Mountain States College Planning Associates- Parker
Posted

“When Danny graduated from the 8th grade, we realized it was a good time to PANIC! In four short years, there was going to be a graduation and we didn’t have a clue how to fund his college education.

We talked to everyone we knew, began reading everything we could get our hands on and searched online as well. A college planning site showed us the basic steps we need to take – first, we had to create a plan and second, we had to follow the plan.” 

- (A True Story) Relayed by Jean and Don, parents of Danny

 

The end of the 8th grade is often a stressful time for parents, and I was glad that Jean and Don thought seriously about how they were going to ensure Danny’s college success. 

Here, the process we went through:

  • The first thing we did was to stress to Danny and his parents the importance of academics and to work with them to understand what good grades would mean to Danny in the long-run.  Grades follow a child throughout high school and beyond and “making the grade” makes a difference when it comes to receiving scholarships in the future.
  • We then went through an intensive skills assessment early on to help Danny match career choices with his interests and abilities. Taking challenging high school courses not only gave Danny a solid scholastic foundation, but fed directly into his interests and future career.
  • As a freshman and sophomore, we worked with the family to identify various clubs and activities that Danny would enjoy, and further his academic accomplishments.
  • For many students, this means involvement in sports, music, student council, Latin Club or the many hundreds of other school opportunities.  Involvement in this type of activity gives the child a balanced and well-rounded background, which is important not only to college recruiters, but to the child himself.  Also, many colleges give merit-based scholarships based on these interests (such as music, theater, dance and others) and this type of activity increases a child’s chance for a scholarship.
  • As a junior, Jean and Don also started looking into internships, apprenticeships and part-time jobs to give Danny a first-hand look at possible career choices. They enrolled Danny in many no-cost or low-cost summer enrichment programs that give him a chance to explore many of the career areas he was interested in.
  • Danny also took SAT/ACT prep courses, which not only ensured higher test scores, but lowered his test-taking anxiety. Higher test scores meant better schools and more help with financial aid packages.
  • When Danny was a junior, he started taking a few college courses that earned him college credits while still in high school. These courses can be taken through Advanced Placement internet coursework and they are offered at a majority of high schools. In many cases, these are at a significantly lower cost to the parent and in some cases, can eliminate almost two full years of course work at public university.
  • We also continued to brainstorm with Danny about possible career choices. Tastes change as the child learns and keeping abreast of his interests helped us as we moved together toward college and career selection.
  • The last year of high school meant putting everything Danny had learned and accomplished into a pile and putting his first real resume together. Danny’s resume included academic accomplishments, extra-curricular achievements, volunteer work and other work history.

 

During this entire process, we continued to work on Jean and Don’s college financial plan.  As with many parents, they were surprised to find out that paying for Danny’s college, while securing their strong future retirement, was not mutually exclusive and with smart planning, both could grow.

In May, Danny is graduating and will be off to his freshman year starting in September. 

Will you be another success story, or will you continue to put off planning for your child’s college future?

 

A MOUNTAIN STATES COLLEGE PLANNING REMINDER: 

If you have been waiting for a letter confirming financial assistance from the college of your child’s choice, you should have received the award letter informing you of aid by now.  I

f you have not received your letter, or if you feel your financial aid award is too low, please contact a college planning specialist to assist you in the appeal process. 

Your last day to appeal is May 1, so seek help today.

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